A strong set of all-original material that has its cake and eats it too. With unobtrusive electric guitar and bass blending in with more traditional instruments like flute and djembe, it's both more accessible to modern audiences than traditional African instrumentation, and not as pop- and dance-oriented as much contemporary African music. The focus remains on Sangare's gliding singing (thickened by a couple of female backup singers) and the music's looping (but not laid-back) grooves.
This volume of Mingus material brings together three sessions from 1952 and 1953, all of which emphasize vocal material. The first set of arrangements leans towards a cooler side of Mingus, with careful brushwork from Al Levitt, airy alto lines from Lee Konitz, and the inclusion of a cellist. Max Roach handles the drums on the second session.
While there is no record of how the musicians felt about working with lyrics like "If you make believe with all the fine chicks/Then you're sure to get some crazy way-out kicks," presumably everyone was more enthused about "Paris in Blue," which features a relaxed and spare Jackie Paris vocal in a more distinctly Mingus-like setting. The third session runs straight down the middle, 1950s-style, neither overly cool nor anywhere near avant. Honey Gordon holds forth in a husky, Sarah Vaughan-influenced alto. She is joined by the rest of her singing family on "You and Me" and "Bebopper," a de rigeur vocal tribute to jazz hipster style.